“As was mentioned earlier, the Exodus narrative, with references to Moses, manna, and the wilderness, forms the backdrop for the imagery used in this instance.
Stibbe (1993:87-88) draws attention to the references and allusions to the Exodus narrative underlining the socio-historical framework which the author of this Gospel had in mind. Stibbe found four direct references (in John 6:31, 49, 58) and seven (or nine) indirect references (for instance, in vv. 3, 4, 5, 9, 16, 41 — plus 43) to the Exodus events.
The framework of the imagery is therefore to God’s people in the wilderness who are hungry up to the point of death, and who expect assistance from God (Ex. 16:1-7). In this context there is a serious lack of food in the wilderness and hunger is threatening the existence of these people. This is the reason for the metaphor of bread as the basic ingredient of every meal.
In the context of real hunger the reference to Jesus as Bread of Life obtains its true metaphorical impact. Bread is not a luxury but a necessity when hunger overpowers one in the desert. The manna in the wilderness, which saved a starving people, is compared to the Bread of Life (6:31-33 and further) intended for those in spiritual need. The attraction of the Bread of Life is that the person who eats it will never go hungry and will never be thirsty (6:35).”